Ale Mary's serves Michigan's first cannabis-derived cocktail

By Robert Allen

Cocktails made with a cannabis-derived ingredient, which is erupting in popularity across the United States, are now available in Royal Oak.

Cannabidiol, known as CBD, comes from marijuana and hemp. It doesn't have the same psychoactive effects as marijuana, but it's claimed to have therapeutic benefits. 

"Calming and relaxing are probably the most descriptive terms I've heard around it," said Nick Ritts, owner of Ale Mary's at 316 S. Main St., which now serves three cocktails containing CBD soda. 

The restaurant and craft-beer hall is one of Michigan's first to announce it's offering CBD cocktails, but more are likely to follow: Chefs across the country say cannabis-infused food and drinks are the top two dining trends they expect to see unfold in 2019, according to an annual poll for the National Restaurant Association.

The poll included more than 650 professional chefs. Of those, 77 percent said CBD drinks are the No. 1 trend they see for 2019, followed by CBD foods, USA Today reports. 

Because it can come from marijuana and hemp, CBD has ended up on both sides of Michigan law in the past year. State Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, sponsored a bill that became law earlier this month and allows for the use of CBD oil from hemp. 

“CBD oil derived from hemp doesn’t get you high,” Johnson said in a news release. “It contains no more than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs decided last summer to start classifying it the same way they do marijuana, which contains 5 to 35 percent THC.”

The legislation allows for CBD oil and other products from hemp fall under the definition of industrial hemp, rather than marijuana. The federal 2018 Farm Bill signed in December legalized industrial hemp in the United States, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is developing a plan regarding it, according to its website. 

David Harns, spokesman with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, released a statement on Friday: 

“LARA is working with other state agencies to clarify the definitions of marijuana and hemp currently found in state law. The Liquor Control Commission recommends that its licensees not violate the Liquor Control Code by using any products that might contain marijuana.”

Ritts said he checked with his lawyer before adding CBD cocktails to Ale Mary's menu. The ingredient comes from Sprig, a company based in Orange County, Calif., that sells it in cans of flavored soda with flavors such as citrus, lemon tea and melon. 

More: Cannabis food, drinks to be 2019's hottest dining trend, top chefs say

More: Michigan law: Medical marijuana cards not required for CBD oil

As for CBD's health effects, more research is needed, but it "may prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain," according to Dr. Peter Grinspoon in a Harvard Medical School blog. 

"Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking," according to the blog, which also describes side effects as including "nausea, fatigue and irritability." 

Grinspoon said in the blog to talk to your doctor if you decide to try it, "if for no other reason than to make sure it won't affect other medications you are taking." 

Lisi Willner, vice president of marketing for Sprig, said the drinks have "exploded" in popularity since passage of the farm bill, growing in distribution from six to 15 states and including more than 3,000 accounts. And Michigan has been "one of our most successful markets," she said. 

Sprig sells for a suggested retail price of $3.99 per can — each of which includes 20 milligrams of CBD — with no age restrictions in restaurants, convenience stores, natural grocers and more, she said. The company was founded in 2015, originally offering THC-infused soda in California's medical-marijuana market, and expanded to the CBD-infused drinks, all of which "are delicious and don't have an 'earthy' taste,'" Willner said in an email. 

CBD cocktails at Ale Mary's

  • Aunt Bee's CBD Southern Tea — Buffalo Trace bourbon, amaretto, lemon juice, mint leaves and Lemon Tea Sprig soda, garnished with lemon
  • Raspberry Citrus Hemparita — Muddled raspberries and lime, simple syrup, Altos tequila, brandy and Citrus Sprig soda, garnished with lime
  • Mellow Melon — Muddled strawberries, simple syrup, Tito's vodka and Melon Sprig soda

Trevor Hughes, staff writer with USA Today, contributed to this report. 

Spirits of Detroit columnist Robert Allen covers craft alcohol for the Free Press. Contact him: rallen@freepress.com or on Untappd, raDetroit and Twitter, @rallenMI.

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